Hucklebones coverNo, these three books haven’t been banned. They’re just old and out of print. They weren’t classics, like many of the books I loved as a child. But as the worn and taped edges of these books show, they were well-loved. If you want to read them, you’ll have to come to my house!

But the point of including them in my children’s book-blogging is that, though most of my favorites from childhood are classics, there are many less-than-classic books that provide comfort, life lessons and just pure pleasure – and that’s okay, too. (As long as the books aren’t junk.)

I was a bit inaccurate a few posts ago when I said our family didn’t own many books. I have quite a nice collection of inexpensive Golden Books and their predecessors – Wonder Books from Albert Whitman Publishing in Racine, WI, and Bonnie Books from John Martin’s House, part of the James and Jonathan Company in Kenosha, WI. Was Wisconsin once the heart of U.S. publishing? (I don’t think so.) They are mass market books, but like the more well-known children’s favorites I’ve written about so far, they made my imagination soar. I studied the illustrations until my eyeballs ached.

I loved Hucklebones, the clumsy horse who wanted to learn to dance so he could go to the Steeplechase Ball. An encounter with a huge family of bunnies eventually helps him conquer his problem. I especially liked the ribbons in his tail as he went to the dance. The book was published in 1949 by Whitman Publishing. It was written by Mickey Klar Marks and illustrated by Irma Wilde.

(Note the red taped edges.)

 

The other two battered books I remember well have an interesting cultural connection. They are both Television Books, published by John Martin’s House, also in 1949. (I read these in the 50s – but I have an older sister.) Our family didn’t own a television until about 1950 and they were pretty rare in 1949. We weren’t the first or the last in our neighborhood to have one. The “television” aspect of these books was a piece of plastic over a little window on the cover and a little wheel on the side of the book to move it. The wheels are long gone and only a vestige of plastic remains and I’ve kind of forgotten what it did. There are little lines on the plastic. Was it supposed to simulate a blurry black-and-white TV with squiggly lines?

 

Choo Choo pigsForget TV – what I loved about these books were the illustrations. I wish I could put up all the spreads from The Choo-Choo Train (illustrations by Oscar Fabres). They capture the glory days of train travel and a very different America. Of course, it was that 1950s- fictional-idealized America. Still it makes me look forward to our 10 day train trip through the Scottish Highlands coming up in early September.

 

 

 

 

 

 

07-26-2010 12;34;08PMHesperus really tickled my fancy. Most publishers today shun characters which aren’t humans or animals. However, Hesperus (a wreck of car) was as vividly alive as any character I remember. I loved Lily Lamppost and the very large Bumpkin family. Hesperus gets cleaned up in the end and has a whole new life ahead of him.  

These three books really grabbed me and got my imagination going in a big way.  Thanks, Wisconsin!

 

 

 

 

(The lamppost says “Turn Slowly” – that’s where the wheel was. I guess we didn’t pay attention to the sign! Note the TV Screen on the garage.)

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